April 21, 2006 -- Sniffer dogs have been trained to tell which sheep have parasitic worms, new Australian research shows.
The dogs? skills will be used to develop an electronic handheld ?sniffer? device to detect gastrointestinal nematodes in sheep.
The parasite detection initiative has the potential to save the Australian sheep industry millions of dollars a year say the researchers. Parasites can interfere with a sheep?s wool and meat growth and make the animal weak and susceptible to other diseases.
Anti-parasitic drugs have been the weapon of choice for a number of years; however, many parasites have become resistant to the drugs. So researchers tried something different.
They set out to ascertain whether the presence of intestinal parasites in sheep could be detected by their scent and it seems they can. A female German shepherd has been trained to detect parasite-infected sheep droppings by its odor with 80 percent to 90 percent accuracy.
It is too early to say exactly what the dog is sniffing out but they are confident that in the next five years, they will have a prototype of an electronic handheld ?sniffer? device for farm use.